Step for­ward with con­fi­dence

LRT in Hamil­ton is a win-win propo­si­tion: This is not the time for cold feet

The Hamilton Spectator - - Comment - GRANT RANALLI Grant Ranalli lives in Hamil­ton

Why on earth would we shoot our­selves in the foot on this game-chang­ing pro­ject?

Ask your can­di­dates who do not sup­port light rail tran­sit (LRT) why they are not stand­ing up for Hamil­ton’s tran­sit needs.

Yes, the HSR bus sys­tem needs up­grad­ing (and you can also ask your coun­cil­lor why it has lan­guished for years) but do­ing that, cou­pled with LRT is a win-win.

Sup­port­ing LRT and the HSR are not mu­tu­ally ex­clu­sive.

The B- Line from East­gate to McMaster will form a ro­bust back­bone of the multi-lined BLAST net­work, which af­ter a mod­est start will un­doubt­edly be called to ex­pand once rid­ers ex­pe­ri­ence a much-im­proved tran­sit ex­pe­ri­ence.

This is not “pie-in-the-sky” spec­u­la­tion.

With a few ex­cep­tions, al­most ev­ery LRT sys­tem that started small has opted to ex­pand their sys­tem. And why not?

I have taken rides on sev­eral LRT sys­tems in Europe and mar­velled at the clean, ef­fi­cient, com­fort­able ride.

The sta­tion stops have level, mul­ti­door en­trances that per­mit much faster on and off load­ing, re­duc­ing tran­sit travel times.

The roll-on, roll-off level floors are par­tic­u­larly im­por­tant.

Now add sig­nals that al­low the LRT cars to pass through in­ter­sec­tions with pri­or­ity — plus ded­i­cated rights-of-way where the road width per­mits — and tran­sit times drop fur­ther.

Aside from pure eco­nom­ics there are many other ad­van­tages.

The en­tire cap­i­tal cost is cov­ered by the province (and we are lucky as other mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties have to kick in at least 1/3 of their cap­i­tal costs). We will be re­spon­si­ble for the op­er­a­tional costs (no sur­prise there).

But think of it — LRT is cheaper to op­er­ate per pas­sen­ger/kilo­me­tre than BRT (Bus Rapid Tran­sit).

The cars are built to last 30 years ver­sus 15 for buses.

LRT has only one op­er­a­tor for 150-250 pas­sen­gers per ve­hi­cle (de­pend­ing on de­sign). Dur­ing peak ser­vice times, two or more LRT cars can be lashed to­gether low­er­ing the per pas­sen­ger cost even fur­ther.

Since labour costs are of­ten the high­est in any op­er­at­ing bud­get, hav­ing one op­er­a­tor will save a lot of money in day-to-day op­er­a­tions.

Peo­ple falsely claim there will be con­ges­tion due to LRT tracks tak­ing up a lane of traf­fic, but ne­glect to tell you that BRT also has ded­i­cated lanes so that point is a non-starter.

LRT (not BRT) has proven in other cities to be an eco­nomic driver for res­i­den­tial and com­mer­cial devel­op­ment.

De­vel­op­ers are al­ready build­ing and plan­ning projects along the LRT line in an­tic­i­pa­tion of its ar­rival. You can’t help but no­tice the real es­tate ads that boast the ad­van­tage of be­ing “steps to the LRT.”

Devel­op­ment aside, what it re­ally means is more in­fill, more peo­ple liv­ing, work­ing and re­lax­ing in the city, mean­ing higher tax rev­enues that are badly needed for fur­ther in­fras­truc­ture work.

And once again back to eco­nom­ics: In­cluded in the cost of the 14-kilo­me­tre line is the re­place­ment of buried and sur­face in­fras­truc­ture.

That means new sewer lines, new wa­ter lines, other new util­i­ties like fi­bre op­tics, new side­walks, new pedes­trian ameni­ties, new bike lanes (where ap­pli­ca­ble), new traf­fic lights, new street light­ing, new street fur­ni­ture and brand new pave­ment. This would cost the city hun­dreds of mil­lions of dollars with­out LRT.

Build­ing more roads is not the an­swer.

They are hideously ex­pen­sive to build and with our cli­mate (re­mem­ber the pot­holes on Main West last spring any­one?) and ex­pen­sive to main­tain.

Not sure I am on the right track? Why then is LRT backed by ev­ery ma­jor ed­u­ca­tional in­sti­tu­tion (McMaster, Mo­hawk, Redeemer, Columbia, Pub­lic and Catholic School Boards)?

Why is it favoured by such dis­parate bed­fel­lows as En­vi­ron­ment Hamil­ton and Hamil­ton-Hal­ton Home­builders As­so­ci­a­tion?

Throw in nu­mer­ous small, medium and large com­pa­nies, ArcelorMit­tal, the Hamil­ton Tiger-Cats and the Cham­ber of Com­merce.

I urge you to care­fully con­sider what your can­di­date’s stand is on light rail tran­sit and vote ac­cord­ingly.

This is not the time for cold feet.

DAVID BEBEE WATER­LOO RE­GION RECORD

A light rail tran­sit car in Kitch­ener-Water­loo, where mil­lions of dollars are be­ing gen­er­ated by new devel­op­ment along the LRT line.

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